Bill Smith/Chicago Bulls

Bulls players prepare for trade deadline

On the eve of the NBA's trade deadline, Taj Gibson and other Bulls face the potential business side of the NBA

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By Sam Smith | 2.17.2016 | 7:20 p.m.

Taj Gibson hasn’t started packing yet.

“It could be worse,” Gibson told reporters after Bulls practice Wednesday about his name again in trade rumors. “People could not be saying your name at all. But it comes with it when the team is underachieving; you’ve got to kind of shake up things. I see what’s out there. I’m no stranger (to this). Since my rookie year I’ve been in trade rumors a lot, so it’s nothing new for me.’’

And so the countdown continues to 2 p.m. Thursday. Allied Van Lines awaits.

It’s the NBA trading deadline for the season and Bulls players have found their names among the rumored. It’s no surprise given the disappointment of the season with the Bulls now hanging onto the bottom of the Eastern Conference playoffs, seventh at 27-25 and just one game ahead of ninth place Detroit.

The general consensus usually goes that if you cannot seriously compete for a title then perhaps become drastic and cash in your players for future options, like young players and draft picks. Of course, that’s made more difficult with about half the league in that position.

Plus, the Bulls find themselves in something of a middle ground with Jimmy Butler and Nikola Mirotic out several more weeks, at least, with injuries and illness and Joakim Noah lost for the season after surgery. Thus there isn’t much opportunity to even make a trade and then field a roster.

So the names that often come up in speculation and rumors are that of Gibson, who has a favorable contract with one more season at about $9 million, and Pau Gasol, who can be a free agent after the season and could leave. So the thinking always goes to get something, which is better than nothing.

The other view is why give up when most of those injured players will return and you still could be in the playoffs and the Eastern Conference isn’t exactly loaded.

“It’s that time of year,” acknowledged Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg about the tense trading period. “I know those guys (Bulls management) are doing their job. They’re on the phone constantly, as all 30 teams are this time of year, and seeing if there’s things to improve rosters. That’s what it’s about this time of year. I haven’t talked to them today. We’re getting ready, obviously, for a very difficult back to back at Cleveland and Toronto at home. So that’s what we’ve been locked up in the office and getting ready and putting game plans together.”

To his credit, Gibson came out to speak with reporters after practice.

It’s generally voluntary, but Gibson may be as sincere and guileless as anyone among the players. It would be a loss for the team—and certainly reporters–to be without someone as forthright and hard working. But that’s also why there’s interest in Gibson. Many of the Bulls role players have under performed this season. So there hasn’t been much interest.

If you are going to trade, you need to bring something back of worth, or at least create substantial salary cap room moving forward for free agents. So Gibson understands why his name has come up. He’s not insulted. It’s part of it, which is another reason why he has been so valuable to the team. He helps eliminate problems; he doesn’t create them.

“I talk with Gar and Pax (Gar Forman and John Paxson) almost every other day, so I never get that feeling (of being shopped), but you never know,” Gibson said. “An offer could be made and things could be shaken up. It’s a part of the business. It doesn’t mean they don’t like you or don’t appreciate you. It’s just that it’s a business. I totally understand it.

“There’s a lot of opinions (in the media),” noted Gibson. “Everyone has their opinions, especially with social media where everything is out there. But it’s really hard to have your complete opinion on (the team for this season) until everyone is completely healthy. We had stretches when we won games and everyone was completely healthy. You’ve got to understand: We’ve got a new coach. We have the same players, but new young guys. We still (have to) work through it. We know what it takes.’’

It, obviously, will be difficult to prove for a while with Butler and Mirotic out. Gibson said he’s ready to play, though he had to leave the game before All-Star break with a recurrence of ankle problems.

“The thing we’re trying to do right now is prove people wrong,” said Gibson. “There’s a lot of opinions. Nowadays everyone is a coach, everyone is the GM at home; so everybody knows that they can do this, this and this.

“In previous years we were able to muster up because we had guys that had been there for a while,” said Gibson. “We had a good belief system, but this is a little different. We’ve got different guys. But I believe in this team. Coach and I were texting before the break and I told him that I believe in him. I believe he’s a great coach and I believe in his system. It just takes time. It takes guys being healthy and willing to muster up things. We’ve proven that. We’ve been able to beat the good teams in this league, but we just have to be a lot more cautious and be able to muster up wins in consecutive games. Like I told [Hoiberg] before the All-Star Game when we were texting back and forth, ‘I believe in you coach, I appreciate everything you’ve done for this team, and I’m going to ride with you.’ That’s what we need.

“I would be surprised (to be traded),” admitted Gibson. “But at the end of the day I understand that it’s a part of the business. I wouldn’t feel any kind of way because at the end of the day I still get paid a lot of money to play the game I love. So it’s a bright side to it. It could be I’m going to the NBA D-League and things like that, so I have a lot to smile for. Just being part of this organization is great. I love being here. We’ll just have to wait and see, but like I said I’m going to continue playing hard for the Chicago Bulls. That’s the team I’m playing for right now.’’

It would be unfortunate if it weren’t Thursday as well.

* * * * *

Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic met with reporters after practice looking much lighter, other than with facial hair, after appendix surgery and complications and seemingly a long way from playing.

“It’s true this process is going a bit more slowly than I was expecting, especially after the second surgery,” Mirotic admitted. “But it’s been great to be here now and see all the guys coming back after the road and All-Star break. They told me after the first surgery, ‘Don’t worry, next day you can go home.’ But I was not feeling good. I stayed one more night. After two days, I went home and I had all night a high fever. I was still in pain. The next morning, they make me come back and they find some hematoma inside my stomach and told me they need to do a second surgery. I stay almost a week there. I lost 17, 18 pounds. Now I’m trying to get that weight back. I recovered some pounds. But it’s still early. Now, finally, I can walk and do some stuff in the pool and weight room. I don’t know how many days, weeks (until a return). As soon as I can. I always tried to stay positive. You never know the reason why it’s good for this to happen.

“They say in 30 years, it never happened (the complication requiring a second procedure) to nobody, just me. I’m the first one. It was maybe bad luck,” said Mirotic. “It was no one’s mistake. It just could happen. I’m trying to forget that and focus on my recovery. Last year, I just missed one game. The good thing is I know my body is young and I can recover soon. Maybe two, three weeks. I don’t know what the time is. The one thing I know that I will do the best job I can to get on the floor soon and help my teammates. Now I’m just walking; so I’m trying to move around a little bit. Let’s see when I can do that. After that, try to get some shots. It’s all about days. We’ll see. I don’t know. I know I’m going to be back before playoffs. I’m going to be here. I know that.”